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The 11th Commandment

A friend of mine who sings at a local apres ski bar is fond of telling a somewhat chauvinistic one-liner about good-looking women. While kibitzing with his audience he’ll sometimes stop and ask if they know what a “Colorado 11” is. After the appropriate comic’s pause, he’ll tell the crowd, “That’s a 10 who can ski.” The line usually gets quite few laughs, and since this is National Skier Safety Week the number 11 brought to mind what should be the “11th” Commandment for ski areas: “Thou shalt ski safely.”Most of us realize that there are enough inherent dangers in skiing and boarding that it just seems downright foolish to add to the risks. Yet we see it happen every day on the mountain. It’s as if the weather changes, variable snow conditions, bare spots, rocks, stumps, trees, unmarked natural and manmade objects, and variations in the terrain aren’t enough to make us realize that safety on the mountain is an important issue.The Skier’s Responsibility Code addresses the more obvious rules that must be followed: That it’s the skiers responsibility to ski under control and that people ahead of you have the right of way, etc. In fact, the entire code is printed in detail on the back of your ski pass, on napkins at mountain restaurants and on signs all over Vail and Beaver Creek mountains. So I am not going to list it again here, but it is worth reading again.Still, some folks just don’t seem to get it and too many somehow feel that the rules don’t apply to them. Since safety is a major concern for all of us at the ski school, over time I’ve conducted an informal poll of ski instructors, patrollers and Yellow Jackets (mountain safety) to ascertain what “violations” they felt presented the greatest hazards to the skiing public. This is what I’ve been told: Skiers (and boarders) skiing beyond their abilities and not under control, especially in crowded areas, topped the list. No. 2 was skiers (and boarders) stopping in places where they obstructed a run or were not visible to those above them. No. 3 was skiers (and boarders) who start downhill or merge into a trail and do not look uphill and yield to others. Also, within my informal poll I also asked what percentage of out-of-control skiers and riders they felt were male versus female. The answer: “almost exclusively males.” I then asked what age group seemed to most “push the envelope.” The answer: males in their teens to mid-20s. (Incidentally, my informal poll revealed opinions that conform precisely to the actuarial statistics of the insurance industry. Automobile insurers understand that males aged 16 to 25 represent a significantly higher insurance risk and therefore they are charged significantly higher insurance premiums.)Now I’m not attempting to besmirch an entire demographic because most male skiers and riders in that age bracket are safe, friendly, courteous and aware. But unfortunately, far too many present a legitimate hazard to other skiers and riders because of their high speeds combined with inadequate spacing. Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with skiing and riding fast when under control, but only with proper spacing! So I’m asking all skiers and riders to please be aware out there. Be cognizant of your periphery and maintain your spacing We have an unwritten rule at the ski school, which goes something like this: “If you take something away, be sure to give something back to take its place”; i.e., if you ask a student to stop upper-body rotation to initiate a turn, then show them how to initiate a turn by some other means. In that vein, since I’ve asked for something, I feel it’s only fair to give something in return, so here are a few tips or pointers about skiing safely that may make your day a bit more enjoyable: 1. After getting on a chair, ask or notify those on the chair with you that you’re going to put the bar down.2. When getting off the chair, tell those with you which direction you’ll be getting off. 3. When skiing on cloudy or snowy days and the light is flat, remember that you can see much more clearly when you’re within one tree-length of the trees on the sides of the runs. Not only that, but the snow is usually better and there are fewer skiers.4. When on catwalks, try imagining a line down the middle of the catwalk and ski to either the left of the right of it, in other words, try to stay out of the middle. It’ll keep you safer and make the traverse less distracting for those behind you. 5. And finally, an alert and energetic skier is in all likelihood a safer skier, so the time to begin hydrating for the next day is immediately after skiing. A good rule of thumb is to end each ski day with a couple of glasses of water.Let me close by saying, enjoy your stay, and be careful out there!Butch Mazzuca of Singletree, a Realtor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.netVail, Colorado


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